Translated from Dutch NOS TV today, by Marijn Duintjer Tebbens:
Climate change is seen as the most existential threat of our time. We are now heading for three degrees of global warming, with potentially catastrophic consequences. That could have been prevented if one crucial night of international negotiatios in a hotel in Noordwijk, thirty years ago, had ended successfully. At least that’s what people involved then and experts say.
The international climate conference was an idea of the then [Dutch] environment minister Ed Nijpels.
Of the usually pro-Big Business right-wing VVD party.
He wanted to lay the basis for legally binding agreements to limit CO2 emissions.
Earlier in the world, under the leadership of the United States, the Montreal protocol succeeded in phasing out CFCs – responsible for the hole in the ozone layer – in a few years. Nijpels hoped that CO2 reduction could be achieved in the same way, although everyone realized that this would be a much larger task.
The United States sent environment minister William Reilly to the conference at Huis ter Duin hotel. Reilly wanted to go far, but just before the conference he got someone from the White House who had to see to it that he did not make too many commitments. That role was assigned to President George H.W. Bush‘s Chief of Staff, John Sununu.
Sununu was an early climate denialist with close ties to the oil sector. According to many people involved, he played a leading role in sabotaging the climate conference in Noordwijk.
The US American journalist Nathaniel Rich, author of the book Losing Earth, sees ‘Noordwijk’ as a crucial turning point. Up to that point, optimism over the possibilities for reaching global agreements and thus preventing the worst consequences of climate change prevailed. But with the conference in Noordwijk, the lobby of the American oil industry in particular, and with it a counter-movement of climate skeptics and deniers, began, says Rich. Partly because of that, it was unable to reach agreements for many years.
In the 2015 Paris agreement it was agreed, on a voluntary basis, that the temperature should rise by a maximum of one and a half degrees until the end of this century. But experts doubt whether that is still feasible and speak of ‘lost years’. They point out that since 1989, the year of the Noordwijk conference, more CO2 has been emitted than in the previous 250 years.
“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and ‘tell it like it is.’ We declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” a remarkable paper published last week in the scientific journal BioScience began: here.